As part of a conversation with the president of the Rockefeller Foundation in New York yesterday afternoon, House of Cards star Robin Wright acknowledged that she'd used her character's popularity as leverage when negotiating for equal pay for future episodes of the show. Wright plays Claire Underwood, the calculating lobbyist who becomes First Lady and then the vice-presidential nominee over the show's first four seasons; Kevin Spacey plays Frank, her equally nefarious husband.
"I was like, 'I want to be paid the same as Kevin,'" said Wright. "I was looking at the statistics and Claire Underwood's character was more popular than [Frank's] for a period of time. So I capitalized on it. I was like, 'You better pay me or I'm going to go public,' and they did." In addition to her performance as Claire Underwood, Wright co-produces and directs occasional episodes of House of Cards. And while she became one of the industry's best-compensated actresses during the show's run, her salary lagged behind Spacey's as recently as last year.
More and more actresses are speaking out about the wage gap
Wright's comments align her with a growing group of actresses who have used public platforms to shine a light on Hollywood's wage gap. When Patricia Arquette won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for Boyhood last year, she used her speech to call for wage equality, a message met with vigorous cheering from the likes of Meryl Streep. Later in the year, Jennifer Lawrence wrote an op-ed for Lena Dunham's newsletter Lenny titled, "Why Do I Make Less Than My Male Co-Stars?" And earlier this year, The X-Files star Gillian Anderson confirmed that she was initially offered half the salary of co-star David Duchovny to appear in the recent X-Files miniseries. Hollywood executives may be holding secret meetings to address the problem, but actresses around the world are taking it into their own hands by speaking out about the issues they face. Let's hope some of their male counterparts join them in condemning wage inequality sooner rather than later.